Language Education We Can Use
As the global nature of work and life in the 21st century becomes clearer by the day, calls for a greater focus on international education and language learning are growing louder. Leaders from the education, business, and national security communities are agreed: International understanding and second-language proficiency are critical to individual and national interests—and our K-12 system must do more to promote them.
But with respect to international education and language learning, more of what we are doing today wouldn't be better. In fact, it might be worse.
For too many years, we have maintained a language-learning strategy that simply does not work. In programs using outdated pedagogies focused on grammar and translation and coupled with low expectations, students take foreign languages with goals that seemingly include everything except actually learning to speak the language. If graduates of our high schools regularly reflected that, after four years of mathematics, they couldn't solve for an unknown variable, we would be outraged. But we share a laugh when someone says, "I took four years of a language, but I...
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